Column: Brush with perfection underscores why Clayton Kershaw deserves to start All-Star Game

Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw hugs teammate Justin Turner.
Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw, left, hugs teammate Justin Turner after the eighth inning of the Dodgers’ 9-1 win over the Angels at Angel Stadium on Friday.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Clayton Kershaw’s eight-inning, six-strikeout performance against the Angels on Friday was imperfect, but it was perfect in its excellence and efficiency and the enthralling drama he created on a warm summer night that was made for baseball and generous dashes of the improbable.

With more than a little defensive help from his friends, he kept the Angels off the bases through seven innings, setting a Dodgers-leaning crowd at Angel Stadium abuzz by striking out Shohei Ohtani and Taylor Ward to end the seventh.

“After the third or fourth incredible play, I thought it was going to happen,” catcher Austin Barnes said of a perfect game. “He wanted it. We all wanted it. Especially the defense was playing so well behind him. You don’t get many chances at that. He threw the ball really special today.”


Kershaw didn’t get his perfect game. He gave up a clean, sharply lined double to begin the eighth by Luis Rengifo on a 2-and-1 pitch, an 87-mph slider, deflating the crowd’s hopes of seeing history but quickly regrouping to retire the next three batters. He left to a well-earned standing ovation, acknowledging the respect with a wave of his left hand and a smile, leaving Reyes Moronta to mop up what finished as a 9-1 Dodger victory that was commanding in every way.

Clayton Kershaw dominates for the Dodgers, taking a perfect game into the eighth inning of a 9-1 victory over the Angels at Angel Stadium.

July 15, 2022

“That was a vintage Kershaw performance, I think,” said third baseman Justin Turner, whose remarkable dive and throw from one knee on a shot hit by Michael Stefanic in the fourth helped keep the perfect game alive.

“He had all his pitches working, had his pitch count down. There was a point in the middle of the game there where you kind of know what’s going on and had a really good feeling about it.”

But Kershaw, 34, still has a chance to enjoy a perfect moment. It should happen Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, where he should be the starting pitcher for the National League in the All-Star Game.

Other pitchers have gaudier numbers, including Dodgers teammate Tony Gonsolin. But no one is more deserving of this honor and this moment than Kershaw, especially on the field he has graced for 15 seasons, where we’ve marveled at him, suffered with him at times and felt exalted with him, too.

Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws against the Angels in the eighth inning Friday.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The three-time Cy Young Award winner missed much of last season because of a forearm injury. He came back to pitch seven perfect innings and strike out 13 in his first start this season in a chilly Minnesota, a start manager Dave Roberts didn’t let him finish because of an abbreviated spring training and Kershaw’s injury history. It seemed only right that Kershaw bracketed that with his seven perfect innings Friday in his last start before the on-field All-Star festivities.

This is the perfect time to celebrate him as an All-Star starter.

“He’s just had a tremendous first half, obviously a tremendous career,” Roberts said. “And I’m looking forward to seeing him pitch at Dodger Stadium on [Tuesday], and hopefully it’s the first pitch of the game.”

Kershaw has earned that role, though he wouldn’t so say Friday. Asked if his next start will be Tuesday, he smiled. “Yeah, the All-Star Game‘s on Tuesday, for sure,” he said. “I’m excited to get to be a part of it.

“At the end of the day you look at everybody’s resume, stats for this season, there’s a lot of guys that are more deserving than me to start that game, but if it did happen it would be a huge honor. I would be excited to do it, for sure.”

Kershaw had only two three-ball counts Friday, against Brandon Marsh in the third inning and Jared Walsh in the eighth, and his focus never wavered. His fastball moved in and out. His curve kept the Angels off balance. Everything worked for him and worked smoothly. He threw 89 pitches, 63 for strikes.

“This would have been a really big team perfect game if it happened,” Kershaw said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, but a good night overall.”

Not just good. Great. “He just goes deep into games. That’s kind of a lost art these days,” Barnes said.

It’s a beautiful art. “He’s still got it,” Turner said. “It’s still a pretty special left arm he’s got and it’s still really fun to stand behind him and watch him compete.”

It would be even more fun to watch Kershaw start the All-Star Game. “He’s checked off just about every box you can check off in his career and that would be the cherry on top of everything he’s accomplished,” Turner said. “And with that being said, there’s still a lot of innings left in him.”

Kershaw’s pursuit of that perfect game continues. He deserves to have another kind of perfect moment on Tuesday, starting a game that features the best of the best and taking a prominent place alongside them.